Homemade Incubator 2

10 gallon aquarium incubator
By ArizonaDesertChicks · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated Jan 28, 2012 · ·
  1. ArizonaDesertChicks
    This is my first time to incubate eggs with an incubator:

    I recently purchased some ameraucana pullets from a fellow BYC member, Mahonri, and found out that the eggs they were laying that first week were still fertile (he has roosters - I don't). I decided I wanted to hatch these eggs, but didn't want to spend a lot of money for an incubator for just this one batch of eggs and needed something ASAP (this week).

    After looking at some really nice homemade incubators other BYC members had made, I decided to make my own. But... I didn't have much time. Since the eggs were already being laid daily and fertility could run out soon, I had to figure out something fast (& cheap). We didn't have any coolers available and I saw that Lolligee had successfully used an aquarium to incubate her duck eggs.

    Since we already had a 10 gallon aquarium sitting in our shed, but no coolers, the aquarium seemed like a good option for us.
    Materials used that we already owned:
    10 gallon aquarium
    metal grate (to keep eggs above the water dish)
    mesh lid from smaller aquarium (placed on top of grate for more stability)
    dish for water
    sea sponge
    fan from an old PC
    adaptor from our big box of extra ones (12 volt output)
    rocks (for stabilizing heat)
    bubble wrap & styrofoam packing (for insulation)
    plexiglass (for lid)
    towel (lid insulation)
    egg cartons
    3/4" pvc pipe
    hot glue gun
    postal or duct tape (for taping styrofoam to the outside and taping the funnel to the tubing)
    cardboard/paper for covering light
    Materials I purchased (about $27 total - all from WalMart):
    lamp socket dimmer (a water heater thermostat might be an even better option)
    2 thermometer / humidity monitors (make sure to test / calibrate them before using)
    75 watt lightbulb (using dimmer on it)
    small plastic funnel
    My husband was out of town and trying to wire a hot water thermostat and light together seemed daunting, so I opted to use a dimmer on my worklight instead (no wiring involved). Using the dimmer takes trial & error plus patience to get to just the right temp. It also requires monitoring to make sure that the temps don't vary too much - placing the incubator in a room with a steady temperature will keep the temps stable.

    PC fan wired to adaptor

    I used a hot glue gun to attach 3/4" pvc pipe to the bottoms of the egg cartons for turning the eggs.


    I started out with 2 brand new thermometers/hydrometers and my meat thermometer to test accuracy - I didn't trust having just one thermometer. I am now using the two new thermometers, which are giving me 3 temp readings & 2 humidity readings. The acurite is actually 2 thermometers in one - it has a separate wired sensor so that you can read the temps in two different areas of the incubator. The white one is a springfield. Ignore the 125 degree reading - I first tried using the sensor in a soap filled egg - didn't work in a wet environment- the sensor went crazy, but after several hours started working perfectly again.

    The thermometer next to the light/heat source was hotter than the other areas, so I place a piece of very thick cardboard type paper in front of it to deflect the heat. The bubble wrap idea was taken from Lolligee's page (for insulation). It didn't seem like enough for my set-up, so I taped some styrofoam to the 2 sides and the back of the aquarium (see the left side in the pic). Now the 3 readings are very close - the heating is even throughout. The light is in the front corner & the fan is in that back corner - at an angle. I didn't know how to attach it to glass, so it is taped to one of the warming rocks (for height). I ended up putting the rock on top of some duplos to make it even higher.

    In trying to stabilize the temps after adding the eggs, I felt that we were losing too much heat through the glass since the light was so close, so we taped another piece of styrofoam in front of the light to keep that heat from escaping - still have plenty of viewing area. The top is plexiglass with a towel over it (I just happened to have some plexiglass that fit - the towel is for extra insulation). The funnel is taped to the tubing which runs to the dish and allows me to add water without opening the lid. The rocks help hold the heat when I do need to open the lid for turning


    This pic shows the opening at the top (thin strip of mesh) which is my ventilation opening - I can place something over part of it during the last 3 days to increase humidity if I need to.

    I ended up buying some more eggs from Mahonri and now have 22 eggs in the bator (1 golden cuckoo marans, real ameraucanas, easter eggers, and a couple polish bred to an ameraucana). I'm very excited to see these chicks! Most of the eggs are blue, but look a bit green in the pics because of the yellow light in the incubator. I'm very excited (my first incubator hatch ever) and will update this page in 3 weeks.

    Day 18 - lockdown - I decided I wanted to keep my pure ameraucanas separated from the ameraucana mixes and easter eggers for easier identification later on. I washed and sterilized a garden rack from a nursery and then cut it to make a hatching tray. I made a divider between the two type of eggs and another divider to keep the chicks from running into the fan and the light. This tray sits on top of the metal grate so the chicks' feet don't fall through.

    In this pic, you can see the 6" x 10" water pan underneath plus a large sponge I used to raise the humidity. At lockdown, I filled the water pan and then put my water tube into the sponge so that I could add water there when needed. Water ended up all over the bottom of the aquarium which was fine - gave me an extra large surface for water.
    The 1st chick came at 7:15 p.m. on day 20, the rest of the chicks came on day 21 & day 22.
    After 12 hours alone, the first chick was so happy to have a buddy.


    Even though I had a fan running the entire time, I think the eggs closest to the light during lockdown were warmer. They started hatching first. Finally, we have some from the other side. One egg from each side didn't hatch.

    newchicks002.jpg newchicks003-1.jpg

    The 3 weeks are up and 16 out of 20 fertile eggs have hatched. I tossed out two eggs due to blood rings before day 10, which left 18 eggs to put into lockdown on day 18. Out of those 18, we have 16 healthy chicks. One chick had pipped at the wrong end of the shell and didn't make it. Another chick was fully developed, but never pipped.Update:

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Recent User Reviews

  1. Anonymous
    "Nice article."
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Aug 18, 2018
    Interesting read. I like the pics included.
  2. ronott1
    "Good Article"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 27, 2018
    Nice in a pinch article for emergency incubating. for long term, a thermostat would be needed
  3. Anonymous
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 21, 2018
    Wow, you had a great hatch! I love how resourceful you were making this. I am just a little worried the temperature and humidity would be too hard to manage in an environment that wasn't really stable.


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  1. BillJ
    Nice. That PVC axle idea is a good approach. I did something similar but ran into problems. A half doz. carton on a platform with an axle and manually flipping side to side on schedule over a light. Didn't have a good hatch. Then went to a plastic storage box, divided, lamp heater on one side and computer fan two openings, relatively precise temperature control with homebrew circuit. Scavenged parts, gears/plastic from a VCR, those and more homebrew electronics got toggling the 6 eggs every 2 hours or 4 hours. Better success but some roos had an extra step in the comb. Trying again this spring but am right now building a rotator. An 8" diameter wheel with wooden spokes, today cutting PVC at 45° for oval slices to place in the indices. Will be driving the wheel with a stepper motor and an RPI3+/Adafruit IO combination. My attempts at humidity measurement often failed. One use to be able to get small Springfield temp/humidity thermometers. I would remove the thermistor and humidity sensor and remount on fine twisted wire to hang in the incubator. Humidity sensor would too often fail. This time I'm buying humidity modules and that should improve their effectiveness. Although the temperature will still be controlled in an external box at the incubator, the temp and humidity measurements will be sent to my desktop so if changes need to be made, e.g. water added to the internal cups, I can do that.

    With the shifting platform I would need to manually rotate the eggs in the half carton and twist them 90°, this to even out the unequal heat distribution. The rotating wheel, moving all eggs relative to the air ports in the divider, and the eggs rolling on their axis, means the egg manual rotation every few days won't be necessary.

    I have no idea yet at what rate I'll turn the wheel nor have I worked out the mechanics of the drive to wheel. But it's a good while before spring.

    Are you planning a hatch this spring?

    Bill J
  2. DianaMallory
    Thank you so much for showing and informing us of your hatch. So many of these do it yourself articles don't tell you if they hatched anything in them.
  3. ILuvSilkies4208
    I have used your model-- thank you!!! -- with fantastic results. I even purchased and incubator only to sell it because I felt the aquarium out-performed it and was less of a pain to work with. The only issue I had was the thermostat; I have not been able to find anything offering a low enough setting, so I have worked without it. I had extra screen door material to line my trays- shelf liner or paper towels work well also. And I used a Norwex towel in the bottom to act as something of a sponge to help with humidity. The silver in the towel prevents funky stuff from growing and causing a less healthy environment. Love this setup. Really happy with it. Due to temperature fluctuations since I don't have anything controlling my temps, it requires a great deal of monitoring, but I have probably done around 20 hatches with it now including duck eggs with amazing success. LOVE it! THANK YOU!
  4. LittleChicks4Me
    When using the egg cartons. Does it matter is I use styrofoam With the air flow holes. Since I don't have the paper cartons? I have a hovabator but just no automatic turner. So I too am using a method like this to turn my eggs..
  5. masloozinit76
    Thanks so much for the details! I am wanting to hatch some eggs but certainly don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a store bought one! I have read where so many people have just as high of hatch rates as those who buy theirs. Thanks again!!
  6. KesslerFlock14
    I've seen some ideas for an aquarium incubator before, but I love how you gave all the details and the step by step process with results.
    I have two aquariums (a 10 gallon and a 20 gallon, both were for my gerbil, but he's in the 20 gallon 99% of the time). I would definitely disinfect the 10 gallon, but I so can't wait to try this out! (I'm not allowed to buy any more chickens.... That was when I had 5, snuck 4 more chicks in, somehow got two free roosters, and then bought 4 more hens.... My mom has put her foot down for sure now :p)
    I have three RIR hens currently laying (purchased as 1 year olds). My original flock (14 weeks old) has a very dominate Brown Leghorn rooster. He's been crowing since 5 weeks old and trying to do his thing since 8 weeks. I'm going to check the fertility of the RIR eggs that we're getting, and hopefully I can hatch some "barn yard" mixes (I have a RIR rooster, but the hens beat him up, so he leaves them alone, he prefers the 4 BR hens that I bought with him originally).
    I really would love to have purebred chicks (1 RIR roo to 3 RIR hens, 1 BR roo to 4 BR hens are my only purebred roo and hens in my flock, -the rest are purebred themselves, but don't have a matching chicken friend), but the roosters aren't interested in their own breed of hens and vice versa.
    Anyways :D I can't wait to try this out.
  8. chickenpooplady
    I am going to try to make my incubator like this. Thank you!
  9. ArizonaDesertChicks
    I didn't realize there were comments here till now -sorry to be so late to respond -- thanks, Everyone. ---

    I've used this incubator again after stealing eggs from a broody with a week left to go and once again had good hatch rates, but as a warning, using a dimmer switch, instead of a thermostat, means you'll have to monitor the temps extra closely. Keeping my aquarium in a cabinet helped give it even more insulation with less temperature fluctuations - make sure you keep your incubator, whatever type you make in an area away from windows or air vents so the temps won't fluctuate as much.

    Wayne -- Yes, the eggs will be laying on their sides from day 18 till hatch.
  10. wayne813
    on day 19 should the egg be laying on its side
  11. Mac14
    So cool!!! Great idea!!! :)
  12. CGinJCMO
    You make it look so easy. I have an aquarium - two actually, one 10 gal, one 20 gal. I might have to try it after all.
  13. Chica Lady
    i will definitely try this!!! I have an old aquarium, I have a couple of coolers, but they are not mine. Love the idea of having a large viewing area, I will be able to see them at all times. Maybe I'll try an aquarium heater, for under water.
  14. NamahKatana
    Thanks for the great idea! I'm going to try this for my incubator!
  15. SMilano
    thanks for the great ideas!
  16. chickenlover237
    cool! i might have to try this...

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